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The House that Cleans Itself: Creative Solutions for a Clean and Orderly House in Less Time Than You Can Imagine

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'The House That Cleans Itself' is a true housekeeping guide for the housekeeping-impaired! It boldly takes on the reasons behind chronic messiness and why ordinary home-organization books won't work. Using the methods of 'horizontal thinking', this book teaches readers how to set up a home so efficiently and logically that it seems to clean itself.

More than a how-to book, 'The House That Cleans Itself' also looks at what God has to say about cleanliness and order, and how He can inspire order in every reader's life in a fresh and unique way. For added fun, some of the tips Mindy uses come from research for her popular novels, 'The Trouble with Tulip, Blind Dates Can Be Murder' and 'Elementary, My Dear Watkins'.

234 pages, Paperback

First published June 1, 2007

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About the author

Mindy Starns Clark

44 books577 followers
Mindy Starns Clark is the bestselling author of more than 30 books, both fiction and nonfiction, and has received numerous literary honors, including two Christy Awards and RT Book Review Magazine’s 2012 Career Achievement Award. Mindy and her husband, John, have two adult children and live near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

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5 stars
206 (25%)
4 stars
292 (36%)
3 stars
215 (26%)
2 stars
76 (9%)
1 star
20 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 141 reviews
Profile Image for Vanessa Chesebro.
32 reviews5 followers
January 11, 2021
I want to give this 2 stars, but I feel bad. Two good things from this book: First, the idea of praying in your home for specific areas of your home and the people that will be using those areas. Second, the idea to change a space to meet your actual needs, rather than trying to use a space the way you think it should be used. Make cleanup easy and intuitive- toys always end up here, therefore a toy bin should be right here to put them in, rather than trying to get the toys to the other room.
Annoying parts: the Bible verses at the opening of each chapter are not referenced and seem like afterthoughts to make it more Christian. I don’t need a motivational speaker to help me clean my house. I just need to figure out how to not be swimming in the pile of stuff on the counter that doesn’t have a home.
Profile Image for Maureen.
357 reviews
August 1, 2023
I loved this confessional how-to book for messy people who want a clean house. The books is full of creative ways of thinking about how we store things and how they affect how much time tasks take us. Best result is that I now have scissors and tape everywhere I need them (and they always go back where they belong)! 🙌🏻 This keeps tasks down to a couple of steps rather than a long hunt for the proper tools. I also appreciated her recommendations for making spaces that work for you and that support you in taking time for spiritual practice, work, creativity, and family time.
Profile Image for Michele.
1,287 reviews
November 26, 2017
I thought a few of her suggestions were spot on, get it?
Putting disposable wipes in every room. This has made cleaning up for me go so fast. You can do an entire bathroom in minutes and then you just throw the dirty wipe away. I think it was Fly Lady, not sure, that said why would you pay to buy paper towels when you just throw them away. Hinting that you are just putting your money towards garbage. But I must disagree. If the wipe causes you less laundry and speeds up the cleaning process, how could it not be completely worth it?
I liked the up and away principle and have been doing it for years, just didn't know it had a specific title.
I read, "The Magic Art of Tidying Up" first, and it was a real game changer for me, so this was a good second runner-up.
What this book really made me want to do, is read the Inspired KJV of the Bible. I really liked the quotes she used as headers for each chapter. Will definitely give that a read.
Profile Image for Mary.
551 reviews
June 22, 2011
I loved this book and highly recommend it to anyone dealing with clutter. I am transforming my home into a place that is more organized and (more importantly) easier to clean. I like the practicality of this book, and although I cannot implement all her suggestions, I like the plan and have been motivated by her Christian perspective.

My favorite nuggets in the book are: 1) the reasons people like me hold on to things for years 2) the idea that every item in my home takes time as I interact with it so I need to ask myself "Is this item worth the time it takes for mt to move it/clean it/etc.?" 3) the process of systemically going through my house, zone by zone, de-cluttering and deep cleaning (this is keeping me on track).
Profile Image for Ange.
86 reviews1 follower
March 26, 2010
I've probably enjoyed reading this self-help house cleaning book more than any other that I've ever read. I enjoyed the author's personality coming through, the funny little stories at the end of each chapter, the short chapters and new perspective on changing your house to fit your behaviors and not necessarily your behaviors to fit your house. I have never known a house cleaning or do-it-yourself book to be so religiously inclined or spiritually uplifting either but I found the faith-filled testimonials of this Christian woman to be unusual but refreshing and interesting too. I enjoyed her writing style enough I think I'll check out her fiction novels too.
Profile Image for Becky.
300 reviews14 followers
February 11, 2021
I don't think I'm "cleaning impaired" or maybe I would've found this more helpful. Parts of it were applicable though, and it was a fairly interesting read with good advice.
Profile Image for Fox Reads Books.
836 reviews24 followers
July 25, 2010
Most organizational books are written by naturally neat people imparting their methods to the rest of us. This can be helpful, but often such people don't understand WHY others are disorganized--and so such solutions are only temporary help.
Clark professes her own disorganization and her method to keep her house "clean enough." There is a lot of advance work (and work after the initial purge/clean), which may dissuade many from even starting. Even with that, there are some helpful nuggets. The main idea of arranging the house to suit your own (or your family's) behaviors is wise.
WARNING: This book has a Christian slant to it which may or may not bother you. While it is definitely there, you can skip over those references (one short chapter and a few lines scattered throughout the book), or use them in relation to your own religious views-- they do not overwhelm the book by any means.
Another handy book for clever cleaning ideas.
9 reviews
February 4, 2010
Great book for the "Housecleaning Impaired". For someone with ADHD, this book has great ideas for cleaning and organizing, with an empasis on simplicity and common sense that really works. I applied the technique to my entire house and it really works for me. Now we are relocating and it is much easier to get the house ready for the market than if I had not implemented these things!
Profile Image for Karen.
576 reviews50 followers
March 24, 2017
this book at the start was overwhelming and added more work to already needing to clean your house. i could nor finish. made me feel guilty.
Profile Image for Cosette.
1,224 reviews8 followers
May 9, 2017
I thought this book would be about living in a home occupied by fully functional robots. Such a let down.
Profile Image for Serena.
15 reviews
June 17, 2017
This isn't my usual go-to read, but I'm really glad that I picked it up. Some of her ideas about housekeeping have already helped me keep my home cleaner. One of her most useful thoughts is the idea that the home must be changed to match the owners' behavior, and not vice versa. Also, to combat clutter, it's helpful to remember that each and every thing we own consumes a portion of our time. Its value should be equal to or greater than the value of the time that we spend on it. A useful read!
Profile Image for Ronda.
215 reviews6 followers
February 10, 2018
This is a good one. I have read ...ahem... Lots of housekeeping/organization books over my lifetime, and just picked this one up again recently. It was fun to re-read it, because as I read, I realized that it may possibly be the one that has brought the most change into my life. Though I never did a whole-house reset as Mindy advises, I did gradually end up trying most of her tips and eventually putting quite a lot of her systems in place. Honestly, it just works very well! I adapted some of her ideas and have used them for years. Even if you're a Cleanie just trying to tweak a few things to become a bit more efficient, she has some good ideas.
Profile Image for Jennifer Brogdon.
35 reviews10 followers
September 15, 2020
I think of myself as a neat and pretty clean person. After reading this, I see many easy ways I can improve to lessen cleaning time and areas of clutter/messiness. I’m excited to implement these tips when we move into our new house. This book is good for the already neat person AND the naturally messy person.
Profile Image for Dani.
131 reviews7 followers
January 26, 2023
Some helpful tips and things to consider, but the book itself is overwhelming. If I’m already feeling 😵‍💫 about my house, it’s not comforting to read about a multi-month room-by-room overhaul. Yikes!
Profile Image for Bonnie Jean.
415 reviews3 followers
September 13, 2022
So, I'll start off by stating up front that while this book was worth reading, I am very obviously not the market audience for this book, and that is inevitably going to color my perceptions of how much I liked it and whom I might recommend it to, because this book is heavily aimed at an Evangelical Christian audience. This is a book about housekeeping which includes Bible verses at the heading of every chapter and lists a prayer walk through your house and setting up Bible devotional space as essential parts of her process.

To be clear: I have absolutely nothing against devotional spaces, prayers, or Bible verses- all of them good things in their place- but my personal life experiences mean that I generally find the mixing of God and Bible with cleaning and housework to be emotionally manipulative and slightly guilt-inducing, even when the author has the best of intentions. And Mindy Starns Clark DOES have the best of intentions here, stating clearly that she wants her Christian readers to have the firm conviction that they are always enough for God, that His grace is always sufficient and His love always constant no matter the state of your housekeeping. But, some of us still have a knee-jerk reaction of the exact opposite when talk of God gets mixed with talk of cleaning. So.... if you find Bible verses super motivating, then this book will be right up your alley. For the rest of us who don't find it motivating, or find it problematic: It's also entirely possible to skim those portions to get the rest of the author's advice- which does seem mostly solid- but if a lot of talk about God and the Bible is something that will get in your way, I recommend you skip this one.

With that out of the way: The core philosophy of a House That Cleans Itself is that frequently it's easier to change a space than to change a behavior, so why not organize a space in such a way that it's just as easy to do the clean thing than the messy one. An example she gives was her front entryway where for years, her kids would consistently dump their backpacks on the floor as soon as they got home from school, rather than walk a few extra steps around the corner to hang them up. Years of reminding just couldn't change it. So, she replaced the hooks with a trunk right at the entryway, so they could plop the backpacks bags inside the trunk rather than having to carry them further through the house- and like magic, no more backpacks all over the floor of the entryway making a mess and causing a tripping hazard.

The process Clark uses to deal with all the mess looks something like this:
1. Be a detective. Go through your house, room by room, on a normal day (NOT one where you've just been cleaning!) and take pictures of what you see. Use a step-stool to take pictures from above to get a different perspective. Non-judgmentally, but instead with curiosity and compassion, document all the clutter and mess you find, and think about what REALLY might be the underlying cause of the mess... not just "my kids refuse to hang up their backpacks" (symptom) but perhaps, "Once they're home from a stressful day of school, the kids just don't have the energy to do yet one more task and take their backpacks somewhere else." (Underlying cause).

2. At this point, before making any changes, the author suggests you do a prayer walk through the house: Walking room by room through the house, stopping in each one to read a praise psalm or sing a praise hymn, and praying for any blessings you might feel inspired to ask for the room, its inhabitants, and the activities done there. Basically (although the author doesn't say it exactly this way) I am pretty sure Clark is trying to find a way to help her audience get out of that guilt-and-judgement mindset that looking closely at a messy house will probably dredge up, and see each room with new eyes. For those for whom praying over a messy room might make the feeling worse rather than better, there's probably alternate ways to accomplish that- listening to some peaceful music? Thinking about happy memories of your family that happened in that space?

3. Think of creative ways to help solve the underlying problems causing the mess, making it easier to do the neat thing. I personally could possibly have used a few more examples of creative solutions here, but I also get that, as she says, this is probably going to look different for different families.

4. Pay attention to sight-zones. If you can organize a room so that the first thing you see when you walk in the door is something that you generally don't struggle to keep uncluttered, the rest of the room will just naturally tend to feel cleaner than it is, and the opposite also applies. I feel like this makes sense, but also is going to be tricky to accomplish if you have a really open floor plan....

5. Eliminate "rabbit trails" by creating stations. Essentially, even if all the items in your home have a designated place where they go, if you have to wander all over the place to gather up supplies to complete a routine task, you're less likely to backtrack and put everything away after you're done (One example she gives is a "Coffee making station" in the kitchen where the coffee, mugs, etc. are all stored right by the coffee maker, which means that you're more likely to put everything away after using it than if the supplies are stored in a pantry on the opposite side of the kitchen. Other ideas given are gift wrapping, workout supplies, bill paying, a personal electronics charging station, etc.)

6. Get rid of excess stuff that you don't need. Fairly self-explanatory here: If you own less stuff in the first place, you have less stuff that needs to be kept neat and organized. Easier said than done sometimes for some of us packrats.....

7. Finally, train yourself and your family to look for moments to "quick clean" in between your regular weekly cleaning of spaces. Create a list of cleaning tasks that take less than, say, 5 minutes, in each room, and set up a quick clean station in each room that you can use if you find yourself with a few spare moments while you're waiting for other things to happen. She suggests you put disposable cleaning wipes of an appropriate type in each room, since if you don't have to leave the room to fetch cleaning supplies, you're probably more likely to take the few moments to wipe down the surfaces of the room. I can sort of agree with these points in principle.... but:
A) Disposable cleaning wipes are not exactly cheap, so that will end up adding up to a lot of money you're using once and throwing away.
B.) Disposable wipes are inherently a one-use product and that's definitely going to cause an increase in the amount of trash that you're sending to the landfill.
C) More importantly, I have something of a philosophical disagreement with the idea that all those less-than-5-minute moments of pause that exist here and there throughout the day are wasted if you use them to relax instead of using them to do something productive like wipe down some counters. I mean, if you find yourself feeling really impatient and wishing for distraction while, say, waiting for pasta water to boil or kids to brush their teeth or whatever, then yeah, knock yourself out and clean something. It's bound to be better for your mental health than spending those same moments doomscrolling social media. But also, with how busy our lives frequently are, it's honestly just as useful to spend that time sitting down, pausing and just being rather than feeling pressured to continually do something all the time.

My issues with mixing God and cleaning and my general discontent with the quick cleaning step notwithstanding, I did find this book to be interesting and to make some useful points, so I'm glad I read it. I'm not sure how many immediate changes I'm likely to make based on having read the book, given that we're going to be moving to a completely new space in the next year, and we may well have entirely different sorts of problems with clutter at that point, but I'm definitely going to use this philosophy of making it easier to do the clean thing when I go to problem solve clutter problems in the future.
Profile Image for Emily Ray.
39 reviews3 followers
February 1, 2022
Had a few good tips and tricks like family cleaning strategies, and changing the organization method to fit the behaviors (if bags get dropped in the hall, put a bin there). Definitely a Christian- themed cleaning book, so be aware of that before picking it up. Better books in this genre are “Sidetracked Home Executive” and “Sink Reflections”.
Profile Image for Donna.
2,852 reviews34 followers
January 27, 2018
WOW... I am not alone in my cluttered lifestyle, and it was nice to find out that I wasn't the problem... my house was! *grin*

Seriously, though! I started implementing MANY of the NEW ideas from this book a few days ago and it was amazing to see my bedroom and kitchen stay uncluttered and clean from day 1! Who knew, all I needed to do was figure out how to make the house work for me, not how or what I would have to change about myself to make our home a day to day livable space. I plan a slow progression throughout the house and hope to see and feel the same quite not believable results as I tackle each and every room!!!

Profile Image for Eli.
201 reviews18 followers
March 27, 2015
As emotionally baggage-laden as house cleaning can be, an approach this encouraging and empowering can really be useful. The author's starting point is that the cleaning that happens most frequently is cleaning that is easy, convenient, and that most closely matches the ways that household members already function and interact with the space. This approach requires the least number of new habits, and is most maintainable.

The author doesn't give a system so much as a set of problem solving tools to help you discover your unique solutions to housecleaning problems. It's what I'd call just sensible and efficient housecleaning and organization, essentially, but with lots of reflection and specific steps to make it as approachable as possible.
Profile Image for Kate.
128 reviews10 followers
April 11, 2022
Things liked:
1) You can’t fight every tendency you and your family have. If it isn’t sinful, work around it.

2) Track progress and keep it low key.

3) Her angle on getting things to their most used space.

Things that drove me nuts:
1) Fault/ Responsibility confusion - especially when she came out and said, “It isn’t your fault your house is messy.”
She uses rejection of fault to relieve you of emotional burdens, then offloads the whole mess on a personality quirk.

2) Alternates between spouse genders at random and uses generic partnered terms from the 90’s.

3) Everything is taken too God and under him, unless you are a hoarder or have ADD. That gets a full chapter and instructions on therapists with no mention of pastors or help in the church.
Profile Image for Megan.
43 reviews
April 28, 2009
I can't get enough organizing and cleaning out around here. Love this books strategy of making your house fit your family's lifestyle or behaviors. It's helped me solve problems we've had for years like our messy garage and not being able to access decorations or my kids clothes. It's helped me clean out every drawer, every closet, every cupboard and not spend money! I've freed myself of stuff that I haven't touched or needed for years. I had the best garage sale the other day!
Profile Image for Stephanie P (Because My Mother Read).
1,174 reviews41 followers
February 23, 2017
This is not the kind of book I would normally choose to read (I'm admittedly bad at keeping a clean home, but I also don't feel the desire to read about cleaning) but it was chosen for my book club. I found it to actually be really helpful and it had several ideas I want to implement. I love that it was written by someone who was bad at cleaning for other people who are bad at cleaning as well. It makes it much more attainable.
Profile Image for Robyn.
498 reviews7 followers
October 7, 2010
So I was totally impressed by this book. I was looking for some tips on keeping my house clean and I found a totally new way to look at my home, myself and my family. Plus the author is religious and included scriptures and making God a partner in your quest for a clean home.
Profile Image for Grace.
294 reviews9 followers
January 2, 2019
When I mentioned this book's title to my husband he asked if it was fiction. Yes, it is written by a fiction writer, but Clark's strategies make for some tried and true results.

Clark's thesis is if there is something that is not working in your home, i.e. where messes pile up, instead of trying to change the behavior make the house change. For example, one of the most challenging places in a home is the entryway. This is where shoes, backpacks and various things get left. What can be changed to make this uncluttered? Behavior won't change so what can change? In my tropical home shoes clutter up the doorway because shoes are not worn inside. I have tried to get each member to keep just 2 pairs by the front door but I am always picking up extra shoes. So what can I change about the house? I made our flip-flop drop off (daily wear) just outside the door. Yes, some behavior change is involved but the outside becomes our more convenient place to drop our all-weather flip flops. The other pair for each member slips easily under the cabinet as we enter. Another bonus? Less sand inside the house.

One other powerful thought is to "think like a hotel". In hotels, many items are up on the wall (hair dryer, iron and ironing board) or at a station (coffee pot with all the stuff). So think about putting things on the wall, like pictures. If they are hung, rather than sitting on a surface, dusting is quick and easy. And think about creating stations where everything is in one place. This makes using it more convenient and the likelihood of putting things back much greater.

Clark encourages thinking outside the box. The housekeeping impaired will glean a lot from this book. Since Clark was not born with the organizing gene her solutions for the messy places in our homes seem made for real people.

This is just the book I needed to start 2019 off with decluttering and re-thinking the way things are set up in my home.
Profile Image for Lisa.
163 reviews
August 3, 2018
I like to read a de-cluttering or housecleaning book every once in a while to inspire my cleaning and clutter-clearing efforts. This one did the trick! I've been applying her room-by-room approach with zeal, and my house looks amazing. It's also been fun' which surprised me. I hoping it will be easier to clean and keep clean, as she suggests.

One thing I really like about this book is its focus on efficiency. If you have a plan for how to keep every room clean without too much trouble (i.e. cleaning supplies organized nearby), you'll be more likely to keep it clean.

Also, I like the idea of making station with supplies for things you do often all in one spot. Now I have a travel station, a sewing station, a gift wrapping station, a cleaning station, and a bath station.

As an under buyer, one of my biggest revelations was that I needed to buy a few more things to make my house run efficiently and "clean itself"....more trash and recycling cans, more cleaning supplies like dusters and e-cloth rags, more containers and zipper pouches to organize my stations.

But I took a carload of things that were getting in our way to Savers, and I'm sure I'll find more to donate. The idea that everything you own takes a little of your time every time you move it, clean it, organize it, store it, fix it resonates with me. I like having things that enrich my life, but too much stuff gets in the way of a happy life.
Profile Image for Emily M.
727 reviews10 followers
January 30, 2018
I liked that this author admits she is naturally a horrible housekeeper--unlike Martha Stewart or KonMari or others who wax eloquent about cleaning, she's like me in that I'd rather be doing something else. On the other hand, I am pretty sure that my house is consistently cleaner and more picked up than hers, so this wasn't life changing for me. I do have several friends who I think would greatly benefit from a read-through, though.

I liked the emphasis on setting up your house/storage/organization around your habits, not the other way around, trying to change your habits to make an organization system work. This helped me think about why the few clutter areas in my home are always like that, and I tried some restructuring of my kitchen counters this weekend to better facilitate dealing with random junk. We'll see how it goes!

I also plan to send my husband out with the kids sometime this weekend and do a prayer walk through my house. I love that idea!
160 reviews4 followers
May 28, 2018
Depending on who you are, a lot of the content of this book may seem obvious, but Clark's target audience is those who are, as she calls them, "housekeeping impaired." If you simply cannot keep your house orderly and organized, or if you think of yourself as a slob, then I think you will get a ton out of this book.

Even though I don't think of myself as housekeeping impaired or a slob, I do read a lot of organizing/cleaning book and articles. And I have 6 kids so the idea of a house that cleans itself is obviously something I'm interested in.

I thought this book contained a ton of useful, concrete information, organized in a very helpful and accessible way. The writing style was friendly and easy to read. The author had some great tips that I have not seen anywhere else and great ideas for identifying the root causes of your messes and eliminating them.
Profile Image for Sarah.
539 reviews1 follower
June 21, 2018
I love the practical, unconventional ideas in this book. She suggests being a detective in your own home and then changing and simplifying things that don't work (like if one's children keep shoving things under the bed, put boards up underneath it to block this action). I just wish she could come to my home and tell me what creative things could help me cut down the work I do! I'm thinking that having more garbage cans in more rooms, more mats and boot scrapers, trunks to place shoes and other items in the entry, a vacuum on every floor, and cleaning wipes and dusters in every room might help! I also like her advice to think about the care every item one places in their home will require. Is it worth the time and effort?
174 reviews2 followers
April 6, 2019

I’ll be honest - I had to start this book about 4 times to be able to really get into it. BUT, it was not because of how it was written - it was only because I had to actually be motivated to want to read it. It is hard reading something that is going to make you CHANGE 😩. I finally plowed through it, and can I just say WOW! Mindy has a way of writing that makes it feel like she is in your head and has been through what you are going through. She is relatable and never once makes you feel condemned for your housekeeping skills or lack thereof.
Next up is implimenting the system!
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